School district to purchase Orpheum
Marshalltown’s historic Orpheum Theater will have a new owner.
At the regular meeting Tuesday night, the Marshalltown Community School Board unanimously approved a letter of intent to purchase the Orpheum Theater, 220 E. Main St.
The school district will pay the current owners, Iowa Valley Community College District, a total of $1 for the building at closing, with the sale’s closing date set for on or before June 16, 2022.
Iowa Valley Community College District Chancellor Kristie Fisher said when the theater was closed after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the district began thinking about the next steps for the location.
“We knew it was a great community asset and so important to the greater Marshall County community that we wanted to make sure we were maximizing it,” Fisher said.
She said she is proud the theater will remain an educational facility.
On selling the theater for a single dollar, Fisher said IVCCD looked at the transaction as a transfer of ownership between one public institution to another. While IVCCD is not seemingly making money on the sale on paper, she said the sale will save the district on operational costs, freeing up funds for other priorities. Fisher foresees MCSD continuing the same mission IVCCD had for the Orpheum Theater.
“It was always about maintaining a wonderful community asset that brought culture and wonderful opportunities to the community,” she said. “When we thought about whether or not we would consider selling it or transferring ownership, we knew that was going to continue to be a pillar of any deal. It had to be maintained as a community asset and we had to believe whatever organization was taking it over would care for it in the same way that the college had cared for it.”
Superintendent Theron Schutte said the district has a lot of work to do between now and winter break in determining everything the space will be used for, but hopes and plans are to provide a hub for work-based learning experiences as well as accommodate fine arts. He also wants to explore the possibility of having a student-run coffee shop out of the Orpheum Theater
“Iowa Valley did a wonderful job renovating that and making it relevant with state-of-the-art technology as it relates to the fine arts,” Schutte said. “I think that it also has significant potential for educational purposes with career readiness as well, especially with where it’s located, in hopes that we can engage small businesses and business entities downtown to move forward our work-based learning with students.”
However, in order for the theater to be a relevant asset for the school district, adjacent parking to accommodate staff and students keeping them off the streets of downtown was needed. The school board also unanimously approved a $20,000 purchase of a parking lot owned by UnityPoint immediately east of the Orpheum Theater on the corner of Main Street and South Third Avenue.
“We’re really thankful that they’re willing to provide us a very reasonable price in order to purchase that, knowing that we’re going to need to put money in it pretty quickly in order to bring it up to standards for downtown,” Schutte said.
The school district also plans to partner with local entities to provide usage and to facilitate events open to the public throughout the year, just as IVCCD partnered with Friends of the Orpheum Theater to provide the “Live After Five” concert series.
“Our plan will be to help hopefully facilitate those things that are desired to be able to continue,” Schutte said.
He said he is aware of the location’s historical importance and the community’s desire to see the building maintained.
Built in 1948, the Orpheum Theater has been a part of Marshalltown’s downtown area for more than 125 years.
Contact Trevor Babcock
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